Letter from our Religious Leaders

Concerned Burlington Area Religious Leaders

February 9, 2015

TO: Senators Sanders and Leahy, Rep. Welch, and Mayors Weinberger and O’Brien

We spiritual leaders of communities affected by the possible basing of the F-35 at our airport write again to let you know of our continued concern for the well-being, indeed the safety, of Vermonters you represent. Nothing we have seen since the previous clergy letters to you lessens our concern. Indeed, what we have learned since then has increased our outrage at the injustice this basing would inflict on the most vulnerable of our neighbors.

Now that this matter is going to be adjudicated in a court of law, we urge you to reconsider your support of this highly questionable endangerment of Vermonters and the imposition of financial hardship on the most economically and socially vulnerable of our neighbors living in the flight path of these yet to be fully tested fighter-bombers.

As we have written before, the information that we have read concerning the safety of the F-35 raises significant questions that need to be explored in transparent, public discussion. The need for civil public debate about these issues only has grown over the past few years. A summary of this information is enclosed with this letter.

We also enclose a note about the legal issues raised by a lawsuit filed against the Air Force which we understand will be heard by a Federal judge in Vermont in the spring or summer of this year. The issues raised by this lawsuit go directly to our concern that placing these planes in our midst may be a grave injustice, raising the kind of basic moral issues about which it is our responsibility to bring to your and the general public’s attention. We urge you to read this enclosure through the lens of the people whose lives most directly will be affected: as if it were your son or daughter whose house would be made uninhabitable; as if it would be your grandchild whose young brain would be assaulted by the great noise.

And we want to be clear. Our concern is not only for the citizens of Winooski, South Burlington, Williston, and Burlington and other communities directly affected. We also are concerned for the well being of members of the Vermont Air National Guard, pilots and support staff, who may be asked to fly and maintain a plane for which the necessary amount of testing cannot possibly be done by the expected arrival date of 2020.

We have great respect for your leadership around many issues, including those related to excessive and unnecessary military spending. We remain baffled by your continued support of this basing in the face of all the evidence that speaks to its inadvisability. What are we to say, what are you to say, to the 6,600 people living in the F-35 noise zones? What are we to say to the many refugees, fresh from the killing fields of their native lands, about our now forcing them to endure the roar (four times the intensity of the F-16 by the Air Force’s own testimony, despite the denial of this fact by elected and business leaders) that will compound the PTSD so many of them endure?

As this matter goes to court, we beg you to reconsider your previous support of basing this plane in our midst in 2020. We do not ask you to oppose its continued development, though that makes sense to many of us. We simply ask you to ask the Air Force to delay bringing it into our midst without a clear, transparent debate about the advisability of such a move. Such transparency is the hallmark of American democracy. It would be a profound teaching for our New American neighbors who are striving to become American citizens. Indeed, it would be a profound rededication on the part of all of us in Vermont to the principles of democracy for which we Vermonters are known throughout the country.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Sr. Marie Bernier
Rev. Richard L. Bingham
Sr Lorraine Boyer
Rev. Michael Brown
Rev. Will Burhans
Rabbi Joshua Chasan
Rev. Roddy O’Neil Cleary
Rev. Peter Manning Cook
Sr. Bibiane Crete
Sr. Therese Croteau
Rev. Mara Dowdall
The Rt. Rev. Thomas C. Ely
The Very Rev. Jeanne Finan
Rev. Sarah J. Flynn
Carol Fournier, Spiritual Advisor
Sr. Doris Gastonguay
Sr. Arlene Gates
Rev. Kevin E.M. Goldenbogen
Sr. Madeleine Goyette
Sr. Marie Heintz
The Rev. Kenneth Hitch
Rev. Debbie Ingram
Sr. May R. Kelley
Rev. Susan Cooke Kittredge
Sr. Olive Lettre
Sr. Constance Maurice
Sr. Patricia E. McKittrick
Sr. Juliette M. Pepin
Sr. Germaine Richer
Sr. Marie Charlotte Plea
Sr. Carmen A. Prouix
Sr. Therese Richard
Sr. Dolores Robert
Sr. Anita B. Roch
Pierrette Roy
Rabbi Jan Salzman
Sr. Sophia Sluka
Diane Small
Rev. Robert Stuhlmann
Sr. Anastasia Tierney
Rev. Nancy Wright

Signatories represent themselves and not congregations or organizations which they serve.

c/o 209 North Prospect Street, Burlington, Vermont 05401

 


This letter was sent December 6, 2012 by US mail to members of our Congressional delegation and Mayor Weinberger and Mayor O’Brien.

Concerned Burlington Area Religious Leaders

We have listened carefully to the debate about whether or not F35 jets are to be bedded at

our airport. Clearly, the community is divided. We appreciate the efforts you have made
to sort through all the issues. We have read many of your words and appreciate your
clear concern for the well being of all Vermonters.

Given that we are now only in the first of a number of rounds of basing decisions for the
F35s, and given the number of unknowns and still unanswered questions, we urge you to
advocate for postponing a decision about bringing the F35s to Vermont at this time.

Whatever one’s point of view, it is clear that many people in Winooski, South Burlington
and other communities are very fearful of the consequences of the presence of the F35s
here in the most densely populated part of Vermont. The seven to nine thousand people
directly affected include many low income Vermonters and many people of color,
amongst the most vulnerable of our citizens. We know that you recognize the ways in
which these Vermonters already are at risk socially and economically. We ask you to
increase the weight of this burden vis-a-vis concern for the over-all economy as you
continue to reflect on the issue. We also ask you to continue to investigate and study the
unanswered questions and concerns about the environment.

We understand the argument for jobs and remain unsure of the economic impact on
the region as a whole—as there is much that is uncertain about the effects of bringing
the F35s here. Given this uncertainty, given that this is not the last opportunity for the
planes to come here, it seems to us unfair to place the burden of this doubt on those who
already struggle the most to achieve social and economic security for themselves and
their children

This is not a pro-military or anti-military debate. Amongst those most affected are
veterans of World War II and Korea for whom the value of their homes is the whole
of their financial equity. We are not asking you to oppose these planes coming to
Vermont. We are asking you to advocate for a delay in such a decision by requesting that
Vermont be removed from the first round of basing decisions so that we Vermonters can

reach a consensus, based on clearing up so many of the questions that remain unanswered
in the minds of many residents.
If we can play a role in mediating this debate, we are available. Not to bring the planes
now does not necessarily mean that they cannot come. As it is a time for compromise
in Washington, it is time for this issue to be resolved, not by decree, but by salient
arguments in a civil debate.

Respectfully,

Rev. Jack Bremer
Rev. Will Burhans
Rev. Adrianne Carr
Rabbi Joshua Chasan
Rev. Roddy O’Neil Cleary
Joanna Cole
Rev. Roberta Finkelstein
Rev. Sarah Flynn
Sr. Arlene Gates
The Rev. Mark H. Hatch
Rev. Debbie Ingram
Sr. Pat McKittrick, SP
Rabbi Jan Salzman
The Rev. Robert K. Stuhlmann
Rev. Nancy Wright

c/o 209 North Prospect Street, Burlington, Vermont 05401

Signatories represent themselves and not the congregations or organizations which they
serve.